As much as we try to control our lives, sometimes it just happens to us. All of the things that we intend to do that never happen and all of the other things that come along unexpectedly, hold us up to our very selves.
Snow falls on the birder tent where I write this blog and it sounds like rain. Posting a blog or accessing the internet onboard the Gould proved to be an impossible feat, or rather one that I could not bear to face, with internet speeds barely perceptible. All the same, I am astonished at the fact that one could even tease the idea of internet on board a boat in the middle of the Drake Passage... From my perspective, we are wholly and truly in the digital age. I remember signing up for my first e-mail account in 1998 - little did I know.
But back to the point.
A week passed and I was not able to post a blog. At times, a week can dissipate and disappear like a deep breath in cold air, but not this week. This week passed in an extraordinary way and I now find myself wondering where to start.
As you may have guessed, I made it through the Straits of Magellan and the Drake Passage. The weather did end up turning on a dime and our passage was uneventful. As much as a small part of me wished for a rough crossing - after 5 days of a good crossing, I can tell you that I am grateful we did not find ourselves in the midst of rough seas. A smooth sailing still got the boat rocking and swaying with every never ending swell after swell of the ocean.
When we finally spotted land on fourth day out, it was time to help the Cape Shirreff crew off of the boat and onto Livingston island. A small island off of the north west tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where five NOAA researches will spend five months at a field camp, studying seals and sea birds. The research team will have only one resupply in the middle of January.
Volunteers were recruited to help unload all of supplies that the team will need for the next several months. Their personal gear, various equipment for their research and food. Lots and lots of food. I imagine that after five months at the field camp, any sort of fresh fruit or vegetable will be quite noteworthy. The respective supplies and volunteers were loaded onto Zodiacs and multiple trips were made to and from the Gould and shore.
We boarded the zodiacs via a rope ladder on the starboard side of the Gould, in big ocean swell and approx 20 knots of wind, bundled in plenty of gear. Long underwear, fleece pants, snow pants and Helly Hansen rain pants for the bottom. On top: long underwear, fleece jacket, and float coat. Of course our outfits wouldn't be complete without our Extra Tuff knee high (on me) rubber boots. A two person team acted as surfers, dressed in full-body 'dry' suits to help secure the incoming zodiacs while they were unloaded. Others piled the supplies on sleds and pulled them up to the camp buildings. I helped shovel snow.
We worked hard and unloaded in just a few hours. Back on board by 12:30 and underway before 14:00. For the final leg of the journey to Palmer station we headed south through Gerlache strait. The most spectacular part of the voyage was through Neumeyer Channel. A narrow waterway with towering snow covered mountains on either side. After we made it through the Neumeyer Channel we made our way through a field of pack ice and eventually to Palmer station! All on board made their way to the deck to watch as we neared shore and our new home.
Video shows part of our passage through Neumeyer Channel.
And now, even though I feel like I have just begun the story of my adventures thus far - I have to step away for the day. One (or I) can only spend so much time in front of my computer, most especially - Here.Now.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1158885.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.